Author’s Note: The Valentine Poems are a chronicle of the author’s personal, committed relationship spanning 15 years. Each year on Valentine’s Day I wrote a poem to my partner Cindy. Our 15-year journey together included two sabbaticals and almost three years of living in two households as a commuter relationship. The poems capture both the passion and the mundane nature of everyday life. The Valentine Poems are excerpted from a soon-to-be-published chapbook entitled, Scenes of Everyday Life.
I drink my first cup of coffee
hoping my brain will engage;
I think about how this is
the last drug I allow myself
(we won’t count chocolate).
I already have an association with coffee and you
and I muse about that
as my hands are warmed
wrapped around ceramic curves
and my tongue swims in liquid.
I think the first cup of coffee
you poured me was drugged.
I’m sure of it being so close
to Valentine’s Day;
some invisible, gossamer, giggling nymph
poured in some potion
that possesses me.
My symptoms are clear:
escalating excitement, complete disclosure
of thoughts and feelings,
a compelling desire to repeat the experience.
I drink my second cup of coffee
and have scheming thoughts of you
and the day ahead
seduction by voicemail;
I am possessed.
Wandering the Hallmark shop,
I seek the Holy Grail of Valentine cards.
Speed reading down the aisles,
I pass by others, who like me
gather to find the perfect few lines
of sweet confection captured in a card
adorned in images in rouge of roses.
The signs direct me to sweetheart or wife,
to my husband or special someone,
for my sister and family, best friend,
and secret admirer. You are all of these and more.
Yes, this is precisely the challenge.
All the cards are simply snapshots
of who we are and what we mean to each other.
I settle upon a line drawing,
two toothbrushes in a cup on a bathroom sink.
Somehow this mundane depiction of home and habitation
(habituation?) is a haiku of my love.
We inhabit each other’s days;
we share in the simple and sacred rituals of love.
We dwell in the soul and spirit of life.
I’ve never been with someone for so long a time
as I have with you, a decade and a year.
Measured by rings of a tree trunk,
dog years, cycles of the moon,
the number of finch nests in a season,
days lived between brackets of dawn and dusk, dusk and dawn,
and all the countless, silent moments of a breath, a thought,
the spasm of a muscle, or a tear caught in space.
I’ve never been with someone for so long a time.
I’ve never known someone as well as I know you.
Sometimes I think your thoughts for you,
answer your questions before asked,
anticipate your regrets. Some days I know you better than myself.
I know things about you, you can’t know,
what you look like when you sleep,
how your eyes brighten when you tell me you have a good idea,
how sadness presses into your shoulders
and etches frown lines in your brow.
I’ve never known someone as well as you.
I’ve never loved someone as much as I love you.
Not in the manner of infatuation or lust,
but in the profound experience
of shared bliss and
the mundane familiarity of everyday life.
I’ve loved you in ways I’ve feared,
past limits of comfort and control,
loved you in spite and because of my better judgment.
I’ve never loved someone as much as you.
Valentine to My Unknown Lover
Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you live,
whenever you’re ready, however scared you may be,
I am waiting for you, my new love. I try to recognize you
in the faces of the unfamiliar, or in the eyes of friendly others.
Perhaps I’ve already met you at the bookstore, or the
Farmer’s Market on the Square, our hands reaching for the same red pepper.
Were you the woman two rows in front of me
in the movie theater? I watched you, then the film.
Maybe we’re friends; belong to the same group,
pass each other on the road during our daily commute.
You may not yet have arrived in town; the new kid at work;
The neighbor moving into my building,
whose ripped cardboard box I rescue before hitting the ground,
our eyes meeting for a second
in recognition of something important, strangely familiar.
We ready ourselves for each other each day in our meditations and reverie,
conversations with friends, when they ask, what will your next girlfriend be like?
I ponder you. I wonder. My curiosity distracts me in my work, sometimes
becoming the purpose of my play, inspiration for poetry.
I write about you in my journal, I conjure you up in my dreams.
Know this sweet woman. I have loved, I love, I will love again.
I will love you as well as I have learned to love myself,
sometimes with abundance and generosity of spirit, often imperfectly.
I can’t promise I won’t hurt you, I will. It is the nature of life and love,
yet I will give you my best and hope you can accept the rest.
My passion and desire will wax and wane, yet my love will always be true
and yours. You will have my hand, my heart, my attention.
We will laugh at our similarities, and practice patience with our differences.
We will hold each other during the dark nights
and giggle under the covers as the sun peaks in the window in the morning.
Unknown Valentine, come out, come out, whoever you are, whatever you do,
wherever you live, whenever you’re ready, however scared you may be,
I am waiting for you, my new love.
*Author’s Bio: Linda Lenzke lives in Madison, Wisconsin and has been writing poetry, performance art and comedy for the past 30 years. Her current passion is her role as an interviewer for the Madison LGBT Community Oral History Project through the University of Wisconsin–Madison.